We all know that the internet has changed shopping. More brick-and-mortar stores are closing almost as quickly as product review sites are growing, and the entire advertising industry seems to have been left dizzy and confused. There’s also one industry in particular that’s steadily growing in the background that most of us aren’t paying much attention to: shipping.
Every time you buy a piece of jewelry off Etsy, a home good item off Amazon or order a custom piece of furniture from a small-scale artisan, you’re supporting the shipping industry just as much as you’re supporting those retailers. It’s no wonder that it’s growing and evolving almost as quickly as ecommerce itself.
If you’re an entrepreneur, the rapidly evolving shipping industry is one you’ll want to keep your eye on whether you’re interested in selling your products online or you want to get skin in the game yourself.
Fleet tracking technology
Possibly the most impactful advances in shipping in the past few decades has been the introduction of highly advanced fleet tracking software. These systems, which entail hardware installed in the computer of trucks and other shipping vehicles that send information back to central headquarters in real time, have been critical in optimizing routes, fuel usage and even employee rest times.
Fleet tracking software is also critical to the security systems for shipping companies, as it is now standard for them to allow central controllers to cause trucks to slow down or even brake (gradually). This technology can mean the difference between a robbery and an arrest, or an ill driver being saved or suffering a fatal accident.
Fleet tracking technology is a steadily growing industry, and it’s no wonder: With more delivery trucks, ships and trains going out every day, there’s more vehicles than could ever be tracked manually by a human team. This industry is bracing for yet another explosion of growth in the near future, as drones and self-driving vehicles become closer to reality.
As of 2011, more than 60 percent of maritime workers were over the age of 50, and less than 1 percent were under 25. That means that the workforce is aging quickly and we can expect many of those positions to become vacant or replaced by artificial intelligence.
How soon will self-driving trucks, a la Logan, be on the road? It’s hard to tell. What’s not so hard to tell is that with each new advance in artificial intelligence, there will be less employees needed. While this may seem like a harsh truth, it does mean that more highly skilled workers will be hired to manage what is quickly transforming from a manual labor industry to a technology industry.
From an entrepreneurial standpoint, it’s important to keep in mind that shipping is moving away from simply managing labor. As an industry, it’s moving quickly toward becoming much more closely aligned with the navigational and automotive technology industries than ever before. If you’re interested in building great new hardware, focus on shipping — it will continue to be one of the fastest growing industries for decades to come.
For those looking to break into an industry that isn’t already overflowing with startups (I’m looking at you, messaging apps and luxury food trucks), take a good hard look at shipping. Until humans stop buying things online, the shipping industry will continue to grow at a steady pace. That means that there will be constant competition among those companies that are in the industry, and each will be looking to make their systems more efficient. Companies that offer ways to cut down delivery time, fuel costs and hazards for drivers will see their own growth skyrocket.